During my experience as a Scrum trainer and Agile coach, when it comes to embracing Scrum and Agile, I’ve seen again and again that people from these organizations tend to focus on aspects such as process, ceremonies, tools, and setting up independent development teams. That is partly right because understanding these parts of Scrum is a key part of getting the real benefit from doing Scrum. But they often forget about the “soft part” about people: their values, principles, and organizational culture. That is due to several reasons, including:
- The current culture is “follow the process and stick to the hierarchy” so why bother about culture?
- Values, principles, and culture are difficult to identify and share.
- Common pessimism about being able “to change people.”
I usually use the popular iceberg metaphor to communicate this idea.
Bottom-Up Change Addresses the Challenges Facing the People on Your Team Better…
Typical change management practices identify and “manage” risks around people, including values, principles, and culture. Centralized “transformation groups” manage the process, including specific training and indicators to track the “soft” changes. While that helps, bottom-up change management addresses the matter much better because people are the primary actors discussing and implementing change.
The Scrum framework includes five core values (courage, focus, commitment, respect, and openness) and a Scrum Master strives to make teams and individuals aware of their current values, principles, and culture, and coach them to achieve sustainable changes. Teams inspect and adapt, again and again, during the Sprint retrospectives. Scrum Masters can share their progress, tips, and issues around culture within communities of practice, a place where bottom-up change can “meet-in-the-middle” with changes driven by leadership.
…But Sustainable Changes in Values, Principles, and Culture Need Leadership
When people face cultural change in middle-sized and big organizations, they typically are highly skeptical about the chances of achieving any form of success: “things have been like this for ages, and they are so difficult to change.” One very important tool that can help is a clear leadership message showing that the culture must change. That usually makes people think that others will dare to change the status-quo.
Leadership must embody the cultural change and lead by example. That may require Agile leadership training, like the one that Scrum.org trainers can provide.
We have seen that “hard” changes such as process, tools, and organizational design must be backed by difficult changes on the cultural side. Organizational change is as good as the change within every member of the organization. Don’t allow “lipstick Scrum”; you must face-down deeper changes to achieve success.